Why Natural Gas Is Vital For Florida’s Future

With Florida’s Infrastructure, Natural Gas Provides Consistent Power Generation And Backup Storage For When We Need It Most.

Why Natural Gas Is Vital For Florida’s Future
By Mary Johnson

Florida continues to be among the fastest growing states in America. To continue that upward trajectory, however, the state needs a rock-solid energy plan, one that prioritizes efficiency and reliability. Florida needs natural gas. TECO Peoples Gas has had a front seat during Florida’s rapid development. It’s supported the Sunshine State with stable and reliable natural gas solutions for more than a century. Today, it serves more than 400,000 customers with more than 13,000 miles of pipeline. Natural gas provides millions of people with the energy they depend on and a foundation our state can build on. Here is how natural gas makes that future possible.

Energy drives the economy

Between agriculture, tourism and other sectors, Florida has grown into a $1.1 trillion economy, and natural gas has a profound economic impact across the board, according to a report prepared for The Florida Natural Gas Association by Rick Harper with Economic Consulting Services, Inc. Other economic impacts include:

  1. Natural gas generates $3.53 billion in economic impact annually.
  2. Natural gas provides $1.93 billion in wages to Florida families every year.
  3. Natural gas provides $317.4 million in annual state and local tax revenue.

Natural gas has proven versatile for many sectors over the years. In industries from restaurants to manufacturing and electrical generation to fleet management, the use of natural gas is ubiquitous. It can even be found on farmland, since most fertilizer used for crops is produced from nearly all natural gas components. Thousands of businesses depend on natural gas for cooking, steam production, drying, water heating, space heating, power generation and many other uses.

Exclusive: Concept images for potential Nissan Stadium renovations released as Titans gauge fan feedback “More than 70,000 Florida businesses rely on the direct use of natural gas, including those hardest hit by the pandemic,” said T.J. Szelistowski, president of Peoples Gas. “From restaurants and hotels to entertainment and travel, these industries need us now more than ever to be affordable, reliable and safe.”

Many Floridians enjoy the benefits of natural gas without even realizing it at all. Today, natural gas has displaced coal and leads the state in net electricity generation. More than 75% of Florida’s electricity is generated with natural gas. More than 700,000 homes and 70,000 businesses are powered by natural gas, and that reliance is expected to double over the next decade. Natural gas also supports commerce with jobs. “In Florida, natural gas creates 44,000 new jobs for Florida workers every year, and Peoples Gas is proud to play its part,” Szelistowski said. “We continued seamless operations in 2020 without reducing headcount.” The company employs 600 team members throughout Florida and collaborates with thousands of contractors, manufacturers, vendors and distributors to deliver both essential energy and a substantial economic impact to the state.

Natural gas is clean, abundant and sustainable

Natural gas is one of America’s most abundant natural resources, with enough dry reserves to last nearly a century, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. These reserves are a tremendous asset in ensuring America’s energy independence while keeping costs stable.

“To sustain a healthy economy, globally and locally, energy must be affordable,” said Tim O’Connor, vice president of business development for Peoples Gas. “The lower the cost of energy, the more people will be empowered to use it in machines and industries that work to make lives better, safer and more prosperous.” Consumers are becoming increasingly conscious of their energy use and sources of energy. While they value reliability and affordability, sustainable energy is in demand. Peoples Gas recognizes that natural gas will be a major driver in Florida’s clean energy future. The company has upgraded hundreds of miles of pipeline with new materials to further limit emissions while exploring alternative fuel solutions. Here are some examples:

  1. Compressed natural gas (CNG) to help buses and waste management fleet vehicles run more efficiently.
  2. Liquified natural gas (LNG) for storage, refueling and transport on ships.
  3. Renewable natural gas (RNG) to reclaim and repurpose methane from waste streams to preserve Florida’s atmosphere. Together, these technologies help both the state’s economy and the environment.

Natural gas is reliable and resilient

In energy production and manufacturing, consistency is important. Natural gas is used every day to cook food, power homes and keep hospitals running. As Florida’s largest natural gas distributor, Peoples Gas has worked diligently since 1895 to keep energy widely available and flowing smoothly.

At times, hurricanes and weather events have presented significant challenges. For example, when Hurricane Irma slammed into Florida in 2017 with 185 m.p.h. winds, reports of flooding and power outages were rampant while the natural gas pipeline went mostly unscathed. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration identified only one pipeline incident, which was due to a downed power line. In these events, natural gas has proven critical to helping Florida recover with backup generation and consistent coverage for critical and assisted living facilities, where downtime is not an option. “The wide availability of natural gas after these storms helped Florida in a speedier recovery,” said Rick Wall, vice president of engineering and operations for Peoples Gas. “Businesses were back up and running sooner, and homeowners did not lose their essential energy for cooking, drying and water heating.”

Weather is also a driving force in the partnership between natural gas and renewable sources. While wind and solar power are both heavily dependent on weather, natural gas works whether it’s rain or shine and can be easily scaled up when necessary. With Florida’s infrastructure, natural gas provides consistent power generation and backup storage for when we need it most. Going forward, natural gas will provide the backbone for continued energy innovation. Peoples Gas will continue its role as a leader with a growing and reliable distribution system to fuel Florida’s growing economy and innovation in the decades ahead.

This news was originally published at BIZ Journals